The Law Commission's announcement that it is consulting on the reform of our matrimonial finance laws dominated the 24 hour news cycle a week or so ago.
Hot on its heels is the latest survey on public attitudes to divorce and separation commissioned by Resolution, the association of divorce lawyers in England.
According to the Law Commission, divorce laws in England and Wales are so "incomplete and uninformative" that judges receive no proper guidance about the fairest way to divide a couple's property.
Meanwhile, 80% of respondents to the Resolution survey said they believed that children end up being the main casualties of divorces and 40% believed that divorces can never be resolved without conflict.
Few specialist divorce lawyers would argue with the Law Commission's view that the absence of any certainty about the likely financial outcome of divorce means that in most divorce cases end up in some form of litigation. This is borne out by the public perception that conflict is pretty much inevitable following separation.
Indeed, our divorce courts have too often become the forum for extraordinarily bitter disputes, even though most victories are pyrrhic. Only in very few cases does the outcome bring any sense of finality. Family litigation is, instead, often a precursor to years of mistrust, resentment and hostility particularly when there are children involved.
Having become the divorce capital of the world, marriage rates in England are now falling year on year. Other than lawyers, few people know what the legal consequences follow from marriage. But not even the lawyers are able to predict with any real certainty what will happen if a marriage fails.
So what has gone so wrong with the legal regulation of families if costly, unpredictable and, ultimately unsatisfactory, litigation is pretty much inevitable following separation?
The main problem is that our current divorce laws were drafted up in the 1960s by a generation of politicians who were brought up in the post Victorian era. Society now has a very different view of marriage and divorce, but our divorce laws haven't caught up. Successive Governments have chosen to leave the development of our laws to judges rather than Parliament. Worse still, when the Law Commission has made considered recommendations for law reform, most recently in relation to the rights of separating cohabitants, it appears Government has largely ignored them.
In my view, we can either continue to lurch from one conflicting judicial decision to the next or we can grasp the nettle. Parliament owes it to society to carefully consider the Law Commission's recommendations and then properly debate and review the entire basis of the legal regulation of families.
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